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International Labor Organization


Convention No. 155: Occupational Safety
and Health

Introduction
5.1

The purpose of International Labour Organization Convention No. 155:


Occupational Safety and Health, 1981 (the Convention) is to ensure
ratifying states formulate, implement and periodically review a
coherent national policy on occupational safety and health in the
work environment following consultation with the most
representative organisations of employers and workers. The aim of
the policy is to prevent workplace accidents and injury to health by
minimising, as far as possible, the causes of hazards inherent in the
work environment.

5.2

Ratification of the Convention will demonstrate that Australian


governments are committed to ensuring the safety of people at work,
and maintaining proper laws and practices for achieving such safety.1

Mr Rex Hoy, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, p. 17.

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REPORT 55: TREATIES TABLED ON 9 SEPTEMBER 2003

Background
5.3

The National Interest Analysis (NIA) states that the International


Labour Organization (ILO) adopted Convention No. 155 on 22 June
1981 and that it entered into force generally on 11 August 1983. The
Committee was advised at the public hearing held on 15 September
2003 that 40 countries had ratified the Convention.2

5.4

The Commonwealth Government brought about compliance at that


level with Convention No. 155 soon after 1983. Mr John Rowling from
the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations advised the
Committee that in 1985 the Commonwealth Government introduced
the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission Act 1985,
establishing the National Occupational Health and Safety
Commission, and the required national structures in relation to the
Convention. 3 In 1991 and 1993, the Australian Government also
introduced legislation in relation to Commonwealth employees and
seafarers in compliance with the Convention.4

5.5

State and Territory governments formally agreed to ratify the


Convention over a period of twelve years between 1989 and 2001.
Western Australia was the first to agree in 1989 and New South Wales
was the last to formally comply in 2001.5 During this time, the
Convention was considered at the meetings of Australian, State and
Territory officials responsible for ILO matters.6 Mr Rex Hoy, from the
Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, advised the
Committee that the 12 year time-frame was the result of State and
Territory governments bringing their legislation into compliance with
the Convention. 7

5.6

In May 2002, the National Occupational Health and Safety


Commission released the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012. The
Strategy commits Commonwealth, State and Territory governments,
industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to work
together on national priorities to improve occupational health and

2
3
4
5
6
7

Mr Rex Hoy, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, p. 17.


Mr John Rowling, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, p. 19.
Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991, and Occupational
Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993.
National Interest Analysis (NIA) Annexure 1 - Consultations.
NIA Annexure 1 - Consultations.
Mr Rex Hoy, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, pp. 17-18.

INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION CONVENTION NO. 155: OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY


AND HEALTH

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safety and to meet minimum national targets for reducing the


incidence of work-related fatalities (a reduction of a least 20% by
30 June 2012) and workplace injuries (a reduction of at least 40% by
30 June 2012).8 The National OHS Strategy will be periodically
reviewed and evaluated, in accordance with the Convention.
5.7

Annexure 1 of the NIA states that at the meeting of the Workplace


Relations Ministers Council in March 2003, all governments agreed to
support ratification of the Convention, subject to the International
Labour Conference in June 2003 reconfirming the Convention in
substantially the same terms. The Conference Committee on
Occupational Safety and Health subsequently endorsed the up-todate status of the Convention.

5.8

The Committee was advised that Australia is one of the leaders in


occupational health and safety performance compared to the
40 countries that have ratified the Convention, not withstanding that
Australia has not ratified as yet. Mr Hoy observed, however, that
ratification would serve:
to underline Australias determination to improve
occupational health and safety outcomes and to achieve the
targets set with the agreement of the states and territories,
business and unions in the National Occupational Health and
Safety Strategy 2002-12.9

Features of the Convention


5.9

The Convention:

 moves from prescriptive, industry-specific regulation, to a


legislative framework covering all employers, employees and
workplaces
 imposes general duties on employers, employees and others to
ensure workplace safety
 establishes workplace arrangements for employee participation in
safety issues.10
8
9
10

http://www.nohsc.gov.au/nationalstrategy/
Mr Rex Hoy, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, p. 17.
NIA, para. 8.

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REPORT 55: TREATIES TABLED ON 9 SEPTEMBER 2003

5.10

The NIA states that Articles 4 to 7 define the main areas of action in
the national policy, identifying detailed provisions concerning action
at the national level and that of the workplace. Article 11 of the
Convention requires the progressive implementation of certain
functions as part of the national policy, namely:

 the determination of conditions governing the design, construction,


layout and safety of workplaces
 the determination of prohibited work processes and substances
 the establishment of procedures for the notification of industrial
accidents and diseases by employers and insurers and the
production of annual statistics
 the holding of inquiries into serious occupational accidents
 the annual publication of information on measures taken in
pursuance of the national policy.11

Costs
5.11

The NIA states that there are no additional costs associated with the
ratification of the Convention, as Australian law and practice already
complies with the provisions of the Convention.12

Consultations
5.12

11
12
13

The NIA states that all State and Territory governments have been
consulted and support the proposed treaty action. Further, Mr Hoy
advised the Committee that the ACCI and ACTU, which are
Australias most representative organisations of employers and
workers for the ILOs purposes, have been consulted and support the
Convention. 13

NIA, para. 11.


NIA, para. 19.
Mr Rex Hoy, Transcript of Evidence, 15 September 2003, p. 18.

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AND HEALTH

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Entry into force


5.13

Implementation of obligations under the Convention in Australia lies


partly with the Commonwealth, and primarily with the State and
Territory governments, as the latter are responsible for regulating and
enforcing workplace health and safety.

5.14

The NIA states that law and practice at Commonwealth, State and
Territory levels of government are consistent with Australias
obligations under the Convention.14 Therefore there are no additional
legislative requirements that would result following ratification of the
proposed treaty action.

5.15

ILO Convention No. 155 would enter into force 12 months after the
date on which Australias instrument of ratification is registered with
the Director-General of the International Labour Office.15

Conclusions and Recommendation


5.16

The Committee notes that ILO Convention No. 155 is supported by


Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and representative
organisations of employers and workers, and that ratification would
demonstrate Australian governments commitment to the
occupational health and safety of Australians.

Recommendation 5
The Committee supports the International Labour Organization
Convention No. 155: Occupational Safety and Health, 1981, and
recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

14
15

NIA, para. 16 and Annexure 1 - Consultations.


NIA, para. 4.